The biggest challenge for executives today is also the number one reason why employees leave: a lack of connection with the company culture. This is one of the main findings of the Remote Work Culture Insights study, a survey of 800 C-suite executives and 800 employees, conducted by Airspeed, an internet social platform, along with Workplace Intelligence, an HR research and advisory firm. Key findings from the study include:
· Over 9 out of 10 executives say that the culture and connection is lacking for their remote team members.
· 75% of the C-Suite say their employees would make major sacrifices to work for another company where they’d feel more connected.
· A lack of workplace socialization is partly to blame, with 72% of workers noting that they aren’t able to socialize enough when they’re remote.
· 96% of executives agree that if their employees felt more connected to each other it would boost their motivation and productivity.
Remote work conveys many benefits, but you want to keep your best performers from leaving. Strong performers get pitched other opportunities. Feeling disconnected will decrease employee loyalty and encourage them to take that recruiter call or set up an exploratory meeting just in case.
With employees dispersed across geographies, you can’t nurture a sense of culture by walking around. Senior leaders need to be proactive and plan outreach and relationship-building. Senior leaders also need to encourage and support the leaders in their downstream (the leaders that they manage, who themselves have teams and direct reports) to foster connection. Here are five recommendations for senior leaders who want to improve connection and retain their best performers:
1 – Keep employees informed with regular, interactive, company-wide meetings
Information fosters connection. When you feel like you’re keep in-the-loop about what’s happening, you feel like you belong. That’s why a pivot in strategy, a restructuring or other significant change without warning or explanation feels so jarring. Employees feel ignored: if the company doesn’t bother to tell me what’s going on, they don’t care about me. However, the flip side also rings true: if I get a heads up, then my manager/ my leadership team/ my company must care what I think and how I feel.
Of course, some information might be too confidential to share, and some ideas might be incomplete. That said, give your employees due credit for being able to acknowledge if something is a work-in-progress. Schedule quarterly company-wide meetings so your employees can come together as a group, and see and feel they’re a part of a bigger whole than just their department. Make the meetings interactive to ensure it’s a conversation and not a one-way diatribe.
2 – Encourage senior leaders to make guest appearances at downstream team meetings
You don’t want to overshadow the managers on your team by showing up unannounced at their own team meetings. However, with notice, mid-level managers should appreciate senior leaders joining the meeting. It’s a visibility opportunity for the junior employees. It’s a chance for senior leaders to share information in a more intimate setting than the company-wide meeting, enabling leaders to highlight key items, collect opinions and feedback in a more welcoming setting and potentially change minds for the employees who, with no face-to-face contact, might assume the worst of their senior leaders.
3 – Make social events a part of regular work hours
Hold a team lunch, afternoon coffee break or breakfast meeting over Zoom, and encourage your downstream managers to do the same. Given that working remotely has decreased boundaries between when employees are on-the-clock v. off from work, schedule these social events on-the-clock. While the events are social in nature, the intent is to build company culture and improve work relationships – these are professional events that happen to feel social. Don’t make your employees give up any more of their free time.
4 – Acknowledge people’s contributions
Acknowledge employees by thanking them and calling out key wins (or even just extra hard work) during the company-wide meetings or smaller team meetings. By acknowledging their individuality but as it relates to the collective whole, you connect the staff to each other. Even if many people are back onsite, this can be an effective way to connect different departments and regions who don’t regularly work in close proximity.
5 — Ask for connectivity solutions – and act on them
If you haven’t done an employee engagement survey in a while, now would be a good time. Or use this post as a prompt, and let your staff know that you’re checking in on connection and want ideas. Just remember that, if you ask for ideas, have a process in place for responding and ideally acting on them. Otherwise, you increase the disconnection with your employees, as you ask for feedback, then don’t do anything with it.